Something quite strange is happening in Wythenshawe right now. An event that doesn’t happen very often but has drawn the eyes of the country’s media to the area, and it doesn’t involve a court case.
Last month our local MP, Paul Goggins died after a brain haemorrhage tragically at the age of sixty. I don’t have a lot of respect for the majority of parliament or our political system in the United Kingdom but Paul was a local man who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was originally a social worker and it was his passion for this area and it’s people that led him to politics. With more working class politicians like Paul and less career politicians living in their ivory towers far away from the realities their constituencies face, the world would be a much better place. I never voted for Paul because of his political allegiance but even so, I have respect for him and what he stood for as a person.
Having lost a worthy representative, the people of Wythenshawe and Sale now find themselves in the midst of a by-election. By-elections are quite strange events. Under normal circumstances in a full blown election campaign areas like Wythenshawe would receive very little media attention as it is such a safe labour seat, candidates go into the campaign already knowing whom is going to win. At elections, politicians only really care about marginal seats that could easily swing one way or another.
Now suddenly, our usual junk mail diet of take away menus, the occassional Wythenshawe News mailshot and misplaced Willow Park (the local housing association) newsletters have been replaced with glossy, colourful pamphlets trying to persuade me to vote one way or another. The canvassers are out in force, the giant billboard van are circling like some sort of grotesque vulture honing in on its prey and the likes of “call me Dave” and “cost of living crisis” Ed have started turning up in our town.
Suddenly the sound bites have started, with labour calling for an enquiry into how the closure of Trafford Hospital A&E has put pressure on Wythenshawe Hospital despite the fact that the hospital was earmarked for closure during his own party’s reign. This fake sympathy for the plights of the working classes may look good on TV but it doesn’t fool me. As soon as the by-election is over, all will be forgotten, just like the Lib Dems focus on abolishing university tuition fees conveniently disappeared after obtaining power-by-proxy.
People like me are fed up with politics where your vote counts for nothing because of your postcode and politicians that promise the world then deliver nothing but misery. So, when you can’t trust any of them, what do you do? The clamour of the protest vote is rising! The people’s rebellion is starting to rumble!
The problem is when people are dissatisfied with mainstream party politics it creates an opening for extremist parties that people wouldn’t normally be given the time of day. There was a point in time where people would receive Jehovas Witnesses with more warmness than parties like the BNP but difficult economic conditions does strange things to normally sensiblish people.
The way I assess the political situation in this country is this:
Every time they come to power they start dismantling elements of the state and do a great deal of harm in the process. Thatcher started the current financial crisis with her relaxation of financial regulation and her right to buy campaign that has led to the lack of availability of affordable housing today. Given enough time, they will dismantle the NHS and they have already attacked the poorest members of our society with their benefit annihilation and Gove’s interpretation of Education seems to be to revert everything to the days when teachers had whips.
The Lib Dems
When I was growing up, the Liberal Democrats had strong leaders like Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. They seemed like a party that would never win an election because they didn’t tend put forward populist policies aimed at one group or another but their policies seemed honest and sensible, for example replacing Council Tax with a local income tax seemed to be a much fairer system to me than a bizarre council tax banding system.
However, when given a sniff of power they completely abandoned those principles and became lap dogs to the tories. They have pandered to too many whims of the conservatives but that’s what you sleep with the devil. Their position as the alternative vote in British politics is in severe danger. It appears it is much easier to come up with sensible policies when you have no realistic hope of having any impact on political thinking than when you’re actually (at least allegedly) part of the government.
Labour is a party that seems to be lacking ideas, strength of character or integrity. It’s very easy for an opposition party to criticise every move of the current government but their own policies seem like half baked sound bites rather than a genuine political philosophy. They are tarnished by the mistakes of the past and don’t seem to know whether to stick or twist. I wouldn’t let them run a brewery, never mind a country. They need a strong leader that people can get behind and I don’t think they have that at. For all his faults, David Cameron does at least have some charisma.
During the 1990s there was a deep divide within the conservative party. There were those like David Cameron whom witnessed Tony Blair’s rise to power and wanted to copy his blueprint of a charm offensive and moving to the centre of British politics and then there were those that wanted to cling on to imperialist British ideology and withdraw from Europe completely. Broadly speaking, the more palatable centre-aligned side of the tories won and the Euro-sceptics detracted to form UKIP.
Voting for UKIP seems pointless to me. If they gained power, there would be a referendum on Europe, then what? They’d default back to being a poor man’s Conservatives (not that the poor would ever vote for a party that despises them). They may be able to win a seat but they will never gain enough momentum to win an election and I think the Official Monster Raving Loony party has more longevity than they do.
If UKIP are the benign tumour of the political landscape, the BNP are the cancer. A political party that exploits genuine concerns about immigration and whips it into a frenzy of racism and hatred. The combination of emotive writing, misinformation and people that feel they are not being represented in mainstream politics is potentially toxic but the lack of substance behind their venom will be their undoing.
After successfully upsetting everyone, regardless of which box they affiliate their cross with at the ballots (I imagine even the Green’s would be upset by their absence from my opinionated dismantlement of British politics), where will my vote lie?
I don’t believe in not voting. If you don’t vote you lose your right to complain about whichever party wins the seat but that places me at a quandary. No matter who I vote for, Labour are going to win this seat and by a landslide margin. If I made my decision based on personalities, I’d probably vote for the Labour chap myself as he seems to be a local man of the same ilk of his predecessor, a man who I at least respect. But I’m not going to do that. All the parties seem to be insane, so I’ve decided if you can’t beat insanity you may as well join it so my protest vote is going to the only sensible option left, the one option that would make us question the very essence of British politics, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
A party with no policies, just jokes somehow seems more attractive than the other parties with jokes for policies. Besides, what fun would the circus be without a clown?